Creative Efforts and Competition Help This California Agency Engage Youths and Their Families

Anaheim Public Utilities’ annual poster contests celebrate children for their artwork promoting conservation and water’s importance.

Creative Efforts and Competition Help This California Agency Engage Youths and Their Families

Two Water Is Life Poster Contest winners were recognized by the Anaheim (California) City Council.

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Each year, Anaheim (California) Public Utilities hosts a water poster contest for first through eighth graders.

The Water Is Life contest was created in 1990 by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for its 26 member agencies, which include Anaheim. All members submit their contest winners, and the district chooses 36 winners for its annual calendar.

Anaheim’s water supply comes from groundwater and it purchases water from the district. The city’s Lenain Water Treatment Plant treats up to 15 mgd for 352,000 consumers; it is the only city-owned filtration plant in Orange County.


The poster competition helps the Anaheim utility engage youth and their families in water conservation, given frequent droughts in Southern California. The contest kicks off in March, and entries are due by May 1. The contest is open to all public and private schools and home-schooled children in the utility’s service area. The rules are promoted through mailings to parents, teachers, the utility’s educational partners and after-school programs such as the Boys & Girls Clubs.

A panel of four or five employees from the utility’s sustainability group judge the entries, along with a graphic artist and one or two people from the Anaheim Convention Center, a major bottled water distributor. Winners are chosen on creativity, originality and outside-the-box thinking.

“One winning example that included all three was a drawing of a little girl taking a bath with her dog,” says Melissa Seifen, the utility’s communications supervisor. The title read, “Take a Bath With Your Dog to Save Water.” The utility receives 400 to 500 submissions every year; two or three winners from each grade are chosen.


The utility recognizes the winners — about 18 per year — in various ways. All winners, their families and their teachers attend a Los Angeles Angels baseball game in May. For many of the children, it’s their first professional ballgame.

“We always choose a game in May because it is Water Awareness Month,” Seifen says. “It’s so wonderful to see the faces of the children who are so excited and their parents who are so proud of them.” The children arrive early and receive trophies along with an Angels baseball cap. At the pregame festivities, the children and their entries are featured on the Jumbotron. Group photos of all the kids with their trophies are taken on the field.

The district frames the winners’ artwork and displays them in a traveling exhibit for member utilities’ lobbies. In addition, two winners are featured on the labels for bottled water the utility produces for distribution at community events like fiestas, open houses, school science fairs and sporting events. The utility also sells the bottled water to the Anaheim Convention Center for sale to event organizers through their concession packages. The children receive a case of bottled water to take home for family and friends.

The two winners from the bottled water contest are recognized at a City Council meeting. They attend with their families, and each student gives a speech while big monitors display their winning entries. Afterward, their artwork is framed for them to take home.


“We are thrilled to recognize these students and their creativity each year,” says Steve Faessel, Anaheim mayor pro tem. “Anaheim has a long history of educating our students about the importance of conserving water. What’s even better is that the students’ artwork also helps educate the public by showcasing important themes at local events and for visitors at the Anaheim Convention Center.”

Finally, the winning entries are submitted to the Metropolitan Water District’s calendar contest. Two or three Anaheim students’ artworks are usually chosen for the calendar. The winners, their parents and their teachers attend an event in the district’s Los Angeles office boardroom, where the winning posters are framed for display. The poster collection then travels to all the member agency lobbies.  


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